Review of Alice Austen Lived Here

Alice Austen Lived Here Alice Austen Lived Here
by Alex Gino
Middle School    Scholastic    176 pp.   g
6/22    978-1-338-73389-1    $17.99

Sam, a proud nonbinary seventh grader, has to research a figure of local significance for history class, and they are determined not to write about another DSCWM (“Dead Straight Cisgender White Man”). They choose Alice Austen: prolific photographer, lifelong fellow Staten Islander, and lesbian. Along with best friend TJ, Sam dives into research, delighting at the love between women that Austen showcased in her photographs. Their teacher plans to enter the best report in a borough-wide competition, with a chance to have the subject made into a statue. Sam and TJ think it should be Alice—but with centuries of queer erasure against them, it might take a whole community to bring her story to light. Sam’s confidence in their identity as a fat, nonbinary kid makes for a lovable protagonist, and their narration is funny and enthusiastic. Elements of queer theory and oft-overlooked historical facts are sprinkled into the first-person narration without feeling too preachy. The heart of this book is found in its intergenerational relationships—Sam’s friendships with LGBTQIA+ elders help them learn about fat liberation, queer history, and the value of chosen family. An author’s note provides more ­information about Austen and includes five black-and-white photos, three of which are ­Austen’s.

From the July/August 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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